Kick-off: Jobi McAnuff’s keen to prove himself at Leyton Orient and deliver in brave new era
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
If anyone deserved a second chance at O’s it was McAnuff and he is ready to deliver on and off the pitch and I’d back him to do so!
Jobi McAnuff is back at Leyton Orient, playing in the same home stadium as before and training at the Chigwell facility during the week like he did between 2014 and 2016, but this is a very different club to the one he joined three years ago.
The 35-year-old is part of the east London outfit again, yet this time there are smiles around the place – staff are full of life, fans are excited and players are very optimistic about the future.
When McAnuff first signed for the O’s in the summer of 2014 under Russell Slade, he expected to walk into the atmosphere now present at Brisbane Road.
A lot has happened since the former Reading captain made his first switch to Orient, but life in E10 feels good now he is back for a second spell and a lot of that is down to the new chairman Nigel Travis and his vice-chairman Kent Teague.
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“I can definitely see myself potentially ending my career here and that was the plan the first time I signed when I was 32,” said McAnuff, who was one of many to struggle during the tenure of old owner Francesco Becchetti.
“At that point in 2014 I was thinking I could have a good couple of years, do well and then see what happens.
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“For me as long as I am feeling good and playing well then this is certainly a place I can see myself staying at for a long time.
“But whether you are 19 or 35, you need to prove yourself on a Saturday no matter what you have done and where you have been, so that is one of the great things about the game we play – we get to do that and I am excited.
“At this age, it is great to be back and I have had a real positive welcome, which has been really nice. Over time the fans could see what was going on before, so that has been good and now it is a matter of me going out and doing it on the pitch.”
On June 22 a consortium led by life-long O’s fan Travis took the club off Becchetti’s hands and the dark cloud over one of the oldest professional clubs in London was finally lifted.
Travis, with the help of principal investor Teague and others like former chief executive Matt Porter, never gave up his pursuit of buying the club he loves and it paid off in the end.
McAnuff will hope to be one of the main people to benefit in the new era after not being able to show his full potential during his two previous seasons in E10.
The ex-Crystal Palace and Watford winger arrived at the east London club to much fanfare in July 2014, but scored just three times in 38 appearances during his first season, as O’s suffered a shock relegation to League Two.
After an underwhelming start to life at Orient, McAnuff enjoyed a fine summer with Jamaica and impressed in the Copa America and Gold Cup.
With a new manager at O’s in the shape of ex-captain Ian Hendon, the international was excited to return to Brisbane Road and do all he could to help the club bounce back following relegation.
But he was made unavailable to Hendon and forced to train with the youth team until he was at long last allowed to be involved at the end of November.
When he did return, McAnuff showed his quality with a long-range stunner against Yeovil Town in December – just his fifth appearance of the 2015/16 season.
Hendon’s dismissal in January failed to prevent the Jamaican from showing the Orient fans what they had been missing and he flourished under new player-manager Kevin Nolan.
Wins at Portsmouth and Oxford United underlined his quality, but another strange decision occurred from the board and McAnuff left in the summer of 2016 on a free with so much more still to offer the club.
O’s new Director of Football Martin Ling recognised that and was able to bring the winger back for a second stint in east London.
Now McAnuff is part of the team again, he is determined to show his class following a good solitary campaign at Stevenage.
He added: “There were highlights once I got back in the team around November towards the end of Ian Hendon’s spell, so I had some good times.
“With ‘Kev’ coming in we got on a decent run and looked like we were going to do something and then that gets derailed and it was just one thing after another.
“The stop-start nature wasn’t good and it was very difficult for anybody in that period to get on a run.
“If you went through the whole squad and looked at who played consistently over a sustained period of time – maybe Jay (Simpson) did when he was on his run of games, but then you look at the season after, so it was a difficult environment to perform well in and consistently, but now we have the platform to do it.
“This is where us players have to embrace that and go and enjoy it. We have stability so there are no excuses and it is our time to show what we have got to offer and I am very much looking forward to doing it.”
McAnuff, from a personal point of view, would love to enjoy success at Orient and be in a side which is doing well.
But more than that, he wants to reward the O’s supporters for never giving up on their team during the tough times.
“People have been here long before the last regime and they will be here long after and I have been at some real good clubs and seen dedicated fans and the guys who travel,” said McAnuff.
“It is harder the lower down you go because you are doing some real long journey and you are not going to the stadiums in the Premier League or the Championship, so for me these fans, the Leyton Orient ones, are the real supporters and the lifeblood of the club. It would be great to give them some happy times back for the support they have given us and the club.”